Antigua election petitions have no real bearing on Dominica and St. Kitts matters

Attorney Anthony Astaphan S.C.

ST. KITTS, APRIL 1, 2010 (CUOPM) – A prominent Caribbean constitutional attorney in Dominica says a judge’s declaration in Antigua that the election of three government parliamentarians was invalid, has no real bearing on election petitions now before the courts in Dominica and St. Kitts.

Senior Counsel Anthony Astaphan is representing Prime Minister Hon. Roosevelt Skerritt’s Dominica Labour Party (DLP) and Hon. Denzil L. Douglas’s St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP) in court matters challenging results of recent general elections.

“The judgments are significant but are based on two issues that do not apply to Dominica,” Astaphan said reacting to word that Justice Her Ladyship Louise Blenman had declared the election of Prime Minister Hon. Baldwin Spencer, Tourism Minister Hon. John Maginley and Education Minister Hon. Jacqui Quinn-Leandro invalid, leaving the government in 7-7 tie with the opposition in a 17-member parliament.

Mr. Astaphan told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that the Antigua cases were decided on the issues of the late opening of the polling stations in some constituencies and the use of identity photographs which were not made available to the candidates or their agents, and as such were not relevant to the matters in St. Kitts and Dominica.

However, Astaphan said it was significant that allegations of bribery were thrown out by the judge.

“For those who think the rulings would have an adverse effect on the cases in Dominica or St. Kitts, they are wrong. Because the issues that are alive and on which the ALP were able to win are not in existent in the Dominican or St. Kitts cases in which I am involved,” Astaphan said.

The United Workers Party in Dominica has challenged the results in five constituencies based on alleged “election irregularities” and also contend that Prime Minister Skerrit was ineligible to contest the Vielle Case constituency on the grounds that he holds a French passport.

In St. Kitts, two defeated candidates in the January elections have petitioned the courts to determine that the election of two legislators of the opposition People’s Action Movement (PAM) be declared null and void.

Astaphan said he remains optimistic about the cases he was working in both islands, even after the ruling in Antigua.

“Where the Antigua Labour Party (ALP) failed, which is on the question of bribery, we will provide the items to the courts both in St. Kitts and Dominica because the judge made it very clear that you can’t rely on rumor, hearsay and inadmissible evidence and gossip to establish bribery and that unless you have strong compelling evidence you are not going to get past the threshold.

“You are going to have to prove a number of things in an election petition for bribery which the Antigua Labour Party was not able to establish … so to that extent those of us who are participating in the election contest in Dominica and St. Kitts will look carefully at that judgment on all aspects but more specifically in relation to those,” Astaphan told CMC.

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